Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.1
Jacob Portman is living the gifted life. His family is wealthy, and he works at a pharmacy store that is family owned. It is impossible for him to get fired (no matter how much he tries) due to his family connections. Jacob’s strongest connection is with his grandfather, Abe Portman. Throughout his childhood he was awed by the stories and adventures of his grandfather. As Jacob begins to age he starts to question the validity of these stories and the people involved. These wild stories and peculiar children are summed up to being fairytales, and his grandpa just an aging old man. It’s not until Jacob finds his grandfather dying and leaving strange instructions as his last words that Jacobs life is changed forever. Jacob tries to understand his grandfather’s past while his new psychiatrist helps him cope with the death of his grandfather. Through these series of events, Jacob and his father take a trip to a strange island, and dig up his grandfather’s peculiar past.
The novel started off as a collection of photographs that the author had been collecting. Through his searches he came across other collectors and the idea to write about these photographs was brought forth. Through advice from Quirk Books, Riggs began to expand his ideas and create a novel. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children lives up to its name by creating strange and wonderful characters. What is more peculiar and somewhat haunting are the pictures themselves. I don’t know what it is about black and white photos of children from the past, but some of them can be very disturbing. Probably the most disturbing picture in the book is of two children dressed in identical white costumes. The white cloth mask has markings similar to that of a clown, and cut outs for the eyes. Sometimes a sack with holes for the eyes can be more frightening that elaborate costumes and weapons. The photos within the book were not made for the story, but rather the story was made for the photos. It’s this blend of the real, the mystery behind the photos, and the peculiar imagination that make this story so engaging. Who doesn’t love a good picture book?
The characters are imaginative and full of personality which is key to holding a readers heart. As I have said before, I usually judge a book by it’s cover. With books such as this it is hard to know what to expect. When books use photos or real people I tend to think of them as real life fiction with minimal whimsy no matter how hard they try. I think it was the writing of peculiar that helped change my mind. This book is complete fiction and full of adventure which I love. Something I learnt in the book, which I had completely missed (and I hope this does not spoil anything for you) is the girl’s feet on the front of the book are not touching the ground! I’d have to say that the only negative for me about this novel were the “bad guys.” I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think I was just expecting something a bit different. I can’t quite explain it. If you read the novel and feel the same way, I would love to hear.
This is a very imaginative book and the idea of including these old photos was just the cherry on top. Although I expected it to be a stand alone novel, it turns out that a sequel is set to come out and I look forward to continuing this adventure. I do recommend that you read this novel. It has a great story and a lot of intrigue with the odd collection of photos. What is even more exciting than the adventure continuing in a sequel, is that it will be coming to the big screen as well! The rights to the movie have been bought, and what makes my heart jump even higher is the fact that Tim Burton will be directing! I hope you enjoy this peculiar adventure as much as I did.
1. Book Summary – Courtesy of Ransom Riggs webpage